TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS, BWI—On the heels of the 10th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-10), the Turks & Caicos Tourist Board announced its upcoming initiatives to maintain an eco-conscious environment throughout the luxurious Islands. Both tourists and residents will benefit from green efforts set forth by Turks & Caicos’ government including development of the world’s first “green island,” the Atlantic Ocean’s first mega-yacht marina, a Ritz-Carlton branded resort community committed to the preservation of West Caicos, and a new environmental center with an on-site naturalist on the private island of Ambergris Cay.
“As a destination that prides itself on natural beauty, we are compelled to invest and partner on developments that are dedicated to the preservation of our environment,” said Wesley Clerveaux, director of the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources. “We are striving to protect Turks & Caicos’ quiet appeal and maintain overall environmental sustainability by initiating green-friendly projects, with a particular emphasis on our outer islands.”
Identified as the world’s first “green island,” Salt Cay will deliver sustainable tourism benefits and environmentally conscience processes for the islands. Located on Salt Cay’s North Shore, Salt Cay Resort & Golf Club will offer visitors a high-end experience based on integration of the existing community and resort guests, nurturing and enhancing the native ecosystems and minimizing the impact of construction while being respectful of the culture and history of the island community.
Salt Cay will limit development to two-story ultra-low density buildings and invest resources in renewable energy. The island will also focus on the preservation of mangroves—essential habitats for birds and other wildlife—as an undisturbed ecotourism area. With new green standards, the $500 million island restoration is slated for completion in the next three to four years. Thereafter, no vehicular traffic will be permitted.
Atlantic’s First Eco-Marina
Another major step toward sustainability is the opening of Turks & Caicos Yacht Club, the Atlantic Ocean’s first eco-marina, in November 2008. Alongside Nikki Beach Resort Turks & Caicos, Turks & Caicos Yacht Club Marina will boast 110 slips to service yachts up to 200 feet, welcoming a new market of affluent travelers to the islands. Most importantly, this marina will exceed the guidelines established by Blue Flag Marina Criteria to preserve the surrounding marine life, while offering accommodations to Turks & Caicos’ numerous seafaring guests.
Other environmental aspects of the eco-marina will include proper containment and disposal of oil changes and extractions, fueling stations with state-of-the-art gasoline fuel delivery and spill protection systems, and a computerized system to track the size of incoming vessels’ holding-tanks to ensure water and sewage waste is discarded appropriately.
Molasses Reef, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve on West Caicos, will offer barefoot elegance with minimal environmental impact. Opening in late 2008, the exclusive resort will leave a majority of acreage on West Caicos untouched to ensure the island remains a natural sanctuary. The 125-room hotel and one-of-a-kind exclusive resort community will also feature 75 Ritz-Carlton-branded villas and oceanfront cottages.
West Caicos and Molasses Reef will take the necessary steps to ensure main objectives for the island are met including limiting development, constructing only low-density buildings, preserving archeological treasures, restricting transportation to electric vehicles and bicycles, and introducing a system of public parks and beach access. Home to two national parks, archeological and cultural sites and a resident population of pink roseate flamingos and sea turtles, West Caicos will require visitors and guests to protect the unique natural habitats and equally rare wildlife.
Private Island Also Participates
Turks & Caicos Sporting Club at Ambergris Cay—a 1,100-acre private island residential community offering distinguished home-sites and world-class amenities such as the longest private airstrip in the Caribbean and an environmental learning center with an on-site naturalist—also follows a conversation-based planning approach, helping to determine all sensitive elements on the land and create plans to keep those elements untouched. A catch-and-release bone-fishing program is in place, and the island is in a working partnership with The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London to sustain populations of critically important plants found only on the island of Ambergris Cay.
On-site Ambergris Cay naturalists are working with Kew Gardens staff to collect seeds from endangered plant species to add to The Millennium Seed Bank—a worldwide effort dedicated to safeguarding 24,000 endangered plant species from around the globe. Further, Ambergris Cay has partnered with Dr. Glenn Gerber of The San Diego Zoo to preserve populations of the endangered Turks & Caicos rock iguana.
Beyond its eco-friendly developments, Turks & Caicos played host to STC-10 last month, which identified ways Caribbean islands can create a balance between the tourism industry and natural environment. In late 2007, Turks & Caicos held its own first annual environmental conference, “Fostering a Green Culture in Small Island Nations,” where former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore spoke on the need to address physical changes in the planet as they will some day influence the global economy. Both conferences were held at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa (by Sandals), a Green Globe Certified Hotel.
“While we are continually building ourselves into a premier destination for luxury and leisure, we remain committed to preserving the natural splendor that makes the Turks & Caicos so desirable,” said Ralph Higgs, director of tourism, marketing at the Turks & Caicos Tourist Board.
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